2017-04-05

Bridgewater and school board commit to working together

by Michael Lee

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>In a joint statement, the South Shore Regional School Board and Town of Bridgewater say they have committed to working together to ensure a smooth transition of students from Bridgewater High School to Park View, but the board has not yet withdrawn an appeal case that could prevent further challenges from municipal units in the future.</p>

The Town of Bridgewater and South Shore Regional School Board have signaled their renewed commitment to work together in transitioning students from Bridgewater Jr./Sr. High School (BHS) to Park View Education Centre (PVEC).

But while a judge has ruled in the board's favour regarding a judicial review, the board has not withdrawn its own appeal, set to be heard in May, of the town's legal standing in these matters.

"We just haven't made a decision yet," said board chair Elliot Payzant. "I'm just not sure where we stand on that."

A judicial review launched by the town last year sought to challenge a school board decision to move Grade 10-12 students from BHS to PVEC.

The board tried to get the review dismissed in December, arguing that the town was late in filing its application and did not have legal standing to begin with.

Justice Mona Lynch granted the town an extension and said the board did not prove the town lacked legal standing.

In response, the board challenged Lynch's ruling in Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. A court date has been set for May 15.

When LighthouseNOW spoke to Payzant on March 29, he said the board would refer to its lawyer, but that conversation hasn't happened yet.

Moving forward, what's being considered by the board is how to prevent further challenges from the town, or any other municipal council, over similar matters. "That's what we want to get clarified," said Payzant.

Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell repeated his calls to have the board withdraw its appeal, stating that "going back to court would be more costs" for both sides.

Mitchell said the appeal felt as if the board didn't want the town to have a voice.

"I think it should be a concern for every municipal unit across the province," he said, given schools return to municipalities when closed.

Still, despite the recent court proceedings, and their possible continuation, the relationship according to Mitchell is "probably stronger now than it's ever been."

"We've committed to be adults and move forward for what's best for our youth," he said.

In the joint statement released by both parties on March 29, Payzant said there's been more communication than he's ever seen.

The mayor and superintendent Scott Milner have agreed to meet quarterly and Bridgewater school board representative Michael Stewart plans on attending town council meetings regularly.

Payzant said they will work to create a welcoming environment for students as they attend Park View.

"At the same time, the South Shore Regional School Board is working to ensure the Bridgewater Elementary School and Junior High School buildings will be used in an optimum fashion going forward. That's very important to all of us."

Mitchell acknowledged that while PVEC was viewed as the "county school" and BHS as the "town school," that has changed.

"Park View is going to be our regional high school now, and a renewed relationship between the school board and the town built on cooperation sets a great example for the youth of Bridgewater and the surrounding area to follow," said Mitchell in the statement.

Transition planning for the Bridgewater students continued while the judicial review made its way through court and Mitchell said the town wants to be a part of that process, including on items such as transportation and making the last year for the graduating Vikings class special.

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